Ballots will be mailed this coming week to voters in Grand Junction. In addition to electing a new city council, voters will weigh-in on two ballot initiatives: a zoning issue and a TABOR financing issue. As an observer, who does not live within the city limits, I think that Grand Junction is not yet comfortable with the idea that it is a city. We are seeing both growing pains and resistance to change on this ballot.
In theory, the election of city council members is nonpartisan, but the GJ Chamber of Commerce and the GOP decide who gets elected. Demographically, Republicans control all local levels of government. With new leadership in the local GOP, power is shifting to the country club Republicans and their developer friends. The incumbent city council members who are running for reelection are registered as Republicans. Despite this, the GJ Chamber of Commerce put forth a complete slate of challenger candidates, also registered Republicans.
Why? Grand Junction has a history of boom and bust cycles. Colorado's economy is demonstrating signs of improvement. After a bust, Grand Junction goes through a boom. Developers love booms - there are lots of investors looking for projects. That is what creates a boom - lots of money chasing too few good deals.
Given that we are poised for a boom, it is no wonder that the GJ Chamber of Commerce, local real estate developers and the new GOP Chair, Lois Dunn, would put up a slate of candidates that are very pro-development, anti-zoning, and anti-regulation.
I am not opposed to development. I'd love to see our riverfront developed into a destination for families to hike, bike, raft, and maybe even throw out a fishing line or two. I'd love to see the Riverfront have more watering holes like the brew pub currently under development. I'd love to see an amphitheatre along the bike path - a place where live musicians can fill the air with music that makes us want to dance, and maybe drink a little local wine and eat a little local food. That is a city we could all love.
I'm pretty opposed to the GJ Chamber of Commerce dictating who will decide what will be along that riverfront. I'm pretty opposed to giving developers the keys to the city while locking out the vision of people like Charlie Traylor and James Robb.
Our riverfront was once an ecological disaster with rendering plants, refineries, and uranium tailings contributing to a toxic mix. Thanks to the vision of Robb, citizens came together to clean up the mess and give us the walking, hiking, biking path that we now enjoy. Imagine if that path could extend to downtown, and to a revitalized North Avenue so that people could easily access dining and drinking establishments all over the city. How about if that same path took us into the desert or slick rock areas close to the city?
Spot zoning, the zoning ballot initiative, is convenient for developers, especially if they own the city council. You want to put a "wareyard" in El Poso? You need us to get rid of some regulations, so that it is more profitable? You want to put a trucking company on the banks of the river? No problem, how can we help? Except, that proposed city council, the one the GJ Chamber of Commerce wants you to elect, with its distrust of zoning and regulations, won't be building a city that we can enjoy with our families or one that will attract tourist, and the dollars they bring with them. If you throw out the incumbents, you are voting to keep Grand Junction a city with no culture, no major park along the river, no thriving people-friendly riverfront, no community center.
Vote NO on the zoning initiative, we don't need an industrial waterfront. Vote YES on the de-Brucing initiative so that we can build the city we want. Tell Lois Dunn and the GJ Chamber of Commerce, thanks, but no thanks, we want a city council that thinks more about the way a city celebrates life than one that wants to eliminate regulations so that their buddies can make a quick buck. Vote for the incumbents and Bob Noble. Vote for the city of your dreams.
Claudette Konola blogs at www.konola4colorado.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.